Matthew Flinders Ship: Time For Action

Time for decisive action from state government over Tasmanian ship dispute, says MUA

The Maritime Union of Australia today called on the Tasmanian Government to take decisive action to resolve the dispute of the Matthew Flinders after the ships crew refused to sail from a berth in Flinders Island almost a week ago when they weren't paid.

"The Captain of the Matthew Flinders, Percy Barnett, was served with an interim restraining order and asked to pack his bags and leave the ship last night. His main argument though was a reasonable one - he and the crew were asking that wages due to he and crew are paid, as much as $30,000 or more in back pay," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.

"We strongly advised the Tasmanian Government against the terms of the original tender for the service and indicated at the time that this placed the future of the new service in jeopardy", said Paddy Crumlin National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

"Our initial advice stands and if a long term sustainable trade is to be delivered the Government needs to reassess both their support and also the industrial mechanisms that secure long term professional and competent crews.

"The Government needs to restore this service so crucial to the economies of Flinders and Bass Strait Islands. This is a Government subsidised service that has well and truly hit the rocks and the Government needs to show leadership here", Mr Crumlin said.

"These seafarers have been placed in an unenviable position and the communities that rely on this service are facing enormous economic challenges due to what is clearly a failure of State Government policy.

"While the Maritime Union of Australia does not have members at Southern Shipping currently it is important that the body that represents seafarers and wharfies across the country is involved in the resolution. We are calling on an urgent meeting of all stakeholders including the State Government, Maritime Unions, local community representatives and operators. Importantly, we need to ensure that this does not happen again.

"At a time when the Federal Government is considering ways to encourage the growth of our coastal and international shipping services, to back the growth of jobs and economies, this dispute illustrates why we so desperately need these competitive, viable shipping services", Mr Crumlin added.

"In setting up better arrangements for the future there needs to be a more proactive management system.  You have to ask yourself why steps weren't taken earlier to rein in Southern Shipping which clearly has been in financial difficulty for a while", Mr Crumlin said.

TasPorts has confirmed that because Southern Shipping was in breach of a commercial agreement the Matthew Flinders was banned from its port at Flinders Island. The ship was mid-sail and was forced to turn back to a private port at Bridport.

"This company has apparently not paid port fees and is also listed in the latest Tasmanian Collection Services Gazette for owing more than $75,000 to five businesses".

Media Contact: Paddy Crumlin: 0418 379660

Michael Meagher: 0410 482367